Avery Young, Tackle, Auburn
The first up on our list of the team’s youth movement is Avery Young, who started as both a tackle and guard in 36 games for the Auburn Tigers. An interesting nugget that you can take for what it’s worth is that Young received the highest undrafted rookie free agent bonus out of the many the Saints signed. However, the reality is that the Saints only ran with 3-4 tackles last season (Armstead, Strief, Peat, Hills), so the competition, while open, is particularly thin for a tackle when you assume that the main guys stay in the mix.
Jack Allen, Center/Guard, Michigan State
The Saints hit big when they were able to land Jack Allen. Former columnist Barry Hirsitus, who solely serves as the managing editor of Big Easy Believer now, put together a column that highlighted Allen as the ‘jack of all trades‘. It practically tells you everything you need to know about a player who is realistically projected to be on the team’s final 53-man roster. Allen is only excited about the opportunity to prove himself after going undrafted.
"“I was pretty excited to sign with the Saints,” Allen said. “It was exciting to know that I’m going to get an opportunity to play football in the NFL and to see if I can make the team. It was definitely crazy (after the draft ended). My phone kept buzzing and ringing. People kept calling, and it was hard to even make a phone call.”"
Landon Turner, Guard, University of North Carolina
Landon Turner isn’t a stranger to the New Orleans Saints franchise. In the spring of 2008, Turner and a group of high school athletes visited the Saints’ team facility on a trip arranged by his mother and stepfather that would help the Gulf Coast recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. As a three-year starter for the Tar Heels, Turner started 41 games. He’s known for using his power for opposing pass rushers at first contact, and can use his frame to hold off more than one. There’s a certain mean streak and aggression to his play that sets the tone, and he’s guaranteed to add value as a strong run blocker. If Turner can continue to learn from the sidelines, then he has a strong chance of making the team’s final roster as a reserve.
Marcus Henry, Center, Boise State
We’d like to think that Marcus Henry is ready to roll given his versatility and skill sets. Henry was a three-year started for the Boise State Broncos, and is leaning upon former teammate and current Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis for guidance heading into 2016. Injuries are what hampered Henry’s draft stock, so that’s what you have to keep a close watch on as we start training camp. Good vision, footwork, and underrated strength are just some of the few traits Henry brings with him to compete.
Ryker Mathews, Tackle, BYU
BYU’s Ryker Mathews is the epitome of a Sean Payton offensive lineman. At BYU, Mathews played both tackle positions and even served as the sixth man on the line as a blocking tight end. That type of versatility has benefited players like Tim Lelito, Andrus Peat, and Senio Kelemete. Mathews is a mauler by trade, using his hands to latch onto opposing defenders to win at the point of attack. Arguably, he’s best suited as a run blocker.
Joe Cheek, Tackle, TAMU
Like many of the undrafted rookies and younger players on the Saints roll call on the offensive line, not much attention surrounds Joe Cheek. However, in our breakdown of Cheek, there’s a good chance we see him thriving. John Sigler calls Cheek a dark horse candidate for the 2016 squad, but highlights how technically sound he is with good vision and quick feet to pick up moving targets and adjust to the angles of defenders racing around the open field. He’s one to watch.
Tyrus Thompson, Tackle, 1st season
Tyrus Thompson was originally a sixth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2015 who played both left and right tackle for the Oklahoma Sooners. His run with the Vikings was cut short largely in part to a preseason concussion. The Saints signed him in mid-May after tryouts at the team’s three-day rookie minicamp, and has his work cut out for him battling for a spot behind incumbents Zach Strief and Terron Armstead. However, if Thompson can put aside some past injury issues, there’s an outside chance he could push for a reserve spot.
Cyril Lemon, Guard, 1st season
One of the most heartwarming stories of the 2015 New Orleans Saints came from guard Cyril Lemon. Although he was primarily a practice squad presence, it was hard not to root for a player who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Lemon’s home was lost, and the family was forced to move to the small Texas town of Marble Falls. However, that’s where Lemon’s football journey picked up. A decade later, Lemon latched on with the Saints but wound up on the injured list in October. For this season, Lemon looks to bounce back and continue to live the dream and help where needed.
Kaleb Eulls, Guard, 2nd season
Last year, then rookie Kaleb Eulls was playing defensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints. However, a switch was made during the offseason to move Eulls to the offensive line. Sean Payton talked about his smarts, toughness, and size in May.
"“He’s very upbeat about it,” Williams said. “He just wants to be a part of the team and wants to play. He has never been one of those prima-donna types who thought he was too good to play another position. He’s just going to do his job and do whatever they ask.”"
At this point, Eulls will absolutely be a project for the team in 2016 and likely end up on the practice squad.
Next: The Meat and Potatoes